Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Landscaping with Palms

Palm trees are amazing.  For the Tucson landscape, we have several wonderful choices.  Of course, Phoenix has many more palm choices because it's a bit warmer during their winter.  Back in spring, I did a report on palms here in the Tucson desert and how they did during our historic freeze.  During these hot and warm summer months when most plants SHOULDN'T be transplanted into the ground, palm trees are one of the plants that SHOULD be placed into our landscape.  According to Master Gardener Cathy Cromwell(additional comments from me in parentheses), here's why....
The tips are a bit dry due to extreme heat and almost zero rain.  Make a well around your baby palm and set to trickle.
  1. "The root systems on palms grow actively during warm weather, making April through September the best planting time in the low desert.  To plant, dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball and about 2 feet wider on all sides.  The palm should be planted at the same soil level as the container it came in, not set deeper or higher.  It is unneccessary to amend the backfill with organic matter or other materials."(I'll usually mix our ground soil with a bag of palm soil for new plants) 
This is our large California Palm.  I won't trim it now with the intense sun.  I'll wait until it cools down.  The "skirt" protects the new growth on the top part of the trunk from the scorching heat.  This palm is about 30 years old. 

  1. "Although many palm species grow well here, they are not low-water-use plants.  To maintain health and vigor, they need regular deep soakings.  Water should penetrate about 2 feet deep with each irrigation.  To determine how far water has soaked, push a soil probe (any long, pointed piece of metal) into the ground after watering.  It will move easily through moist soil but stop when it hits dry soil.   Immediately after transplanting, slowly soak the palm's entire root area.  Palms planted during summer probably will need to be watered daily for two weeks.  During this time, soil should remain moist, like a damp sponge, but not be overly saturated. (You will rot the plant from overwatering).  As the roots begin to establish, gradually lengthen the intervals between irrigations.  How often you water, depends on the soil type.   Sandy soil will drain more quickly, requiring more frequent watering than other soil types.  Clay soil retains moisture and doesn't need to be irrigated as often.  As a guideline, established palms need watering every 2 weeks or so in summer and every 4 to 6 weeks in winter."  
  2. "If palms are lacking nutrients, older fronds begin to yellow.  Once this happens, no amount of fertilizer will "green up" those leaves.  Don't be tempted to overfertilize, as this will do more harm than good.  Yellowing in palms is caused most often by a lack of nitrogen, potassium or magnesium.  Since it can be a bit difficult to pinpoint the problem, use a fertilizer formulated for palms, which will have an appropriate mix of those important needs.  Do not fertilize newly planted palms; instead, wait until the next growing season.  Established palms need feeding only once or twice per year, during their active growing season.  Apply fertilizer in midspring and early summer."
  3. Maintaining your palm.  Remember that all new growth happens on top of the palm and should NEVER be topped off.  Keep in mind how tall some of these palms can grow.  Never plant below a utility line or you'll end up having to remove years of work. I have our tree and palm experts come out once a year to trim.  Usually they trim our palm in February, but it could have two trimmings really.  Remember while "skinning" a palm can be attractive, it can also expose your palm tree to our extreme freezes.  This past winter demonstrated which palms would die and which ones would survive.  Plant in clusters as they look attractive in this manner.  A random palm, for me, is disturbing:)  One palm is native to our Sonoran desert....the Washingtonia filifera or California Palm. Being native to this desert, makes it very low maintenance for you. It's also the one we have on our property.  I've worked with palms now for several years and they are great choices for the landscape....and especially if you have the room to clump them into an oasis looking form. More tomorrow gardening friends.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post and tips, I have to transplant some christmas palms I planted soon!

    Greetings from Seremban, Malaysia!


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